Longtime local television network executive and sports marketing veteran Bob Prather raised $175 million this morning through a new special purpose acquisition company. The SPAC, Heartland Media Acquisition, is focusing on media and sports as potential targets.
Prather is best known for leading local media conglomerate Gray Communications for 20 years, until 2013. He also was co-owner of sports marketing firms Bull Run and Host Communications, which he sold in 2007 to the Ted Forstmann-helmed IMG. More recently, he has headed Heartland Media, another local TV business that sold most of its stations last year, and is also CEO of Allen Media Broadcasting, which has 21 TV stations across the U.S.
Joining Prather in the Heartland SPAC are TV and Wall Street executives Salvatore Muoio, who runs an eponymous investment firm; Steven Shapiro, a co-founder of GoldenTree Asset Management and the longtime lead on its media investments; Alan Weber, former chairman of U.S. Trust; and John Zieser, a Meredith Corp. veteran who led that publisher’s sell-off of Sports Illustrated and Golf.com, according to the prospectus.
Heartland Media SPAC says it is focusing on media, entertainment and sports in its search for a merger target, citing the rise of legalized sports betting and increased use of data and analytics in sports as two opportunities.
“We have particular expertise in television broadcasting, and in local media generally. The media, entertainment and sports industries are in the midst of an unprecedented level of disruption, initially caused by a shift in the media landscape and then further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the prospectus says in part. Prather didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
The venture sold 17.5 million units this morning at $10 each, and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker HMA/U. Each unit is a share and half a warrant, the most common SPAC unit structure of late. The business has 18 months, extendable to 21, to find a company to bring public, otherwise it will need to return today’s IPO capital to shareholders.
The group first filed for a SPAC in March 2021, right as the booming blank check market came to a stop after regulators insisted SPACs needed to restate the accounting treatment of warrants in many cases. At that time, Prather hoped to raise $250 million.